Madison Cawthorn loses re-election bid in NC-11 to state Sen. Chuck Edwards

State Sen. Chuck Edwards won the May 17 Republican primary for North Carolina’s 11th Congressional District. Eight candidates were on the ballot. Based on unofficial returns, Edwards received 33.4% of the vote while incumbent Madison Cawthorn received 31.9% of the vote.

Cawthorn is the third U.S. Representative to lose a primary this year. Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.) lost a Republican primary to Rep. Alexander Mooney after the two ran in the same district following redistricting, while Rep. Bob Gibbs (R-Ohio) remained on the ballot after he unofficially withdrew from his re-election race.

Cawthorn was first elected to Congress in 2020. Cawthorn’s campaign website identified him as an America First candidate, a term often associated with the platform of former President Donald Trump (R) and candidates who say they support Trump’s agenda. Cawthorn said that groups from across the political spectrum want to defeat him: “the radical left, the establishment, and the media want to take me down . . . I won’t stop fighting. I won’t bow to the mob. They want to silence the America First movement. I’m not going anywhere.”

Edwards was first elected to the North Carolina State Senate in 2016. Edwards told Jewish Insider that although he supported Cawthorn and wanted him to succeed, Edwards “feel[s] that Western North Carolina can do better.” Edwards accused Cawthorn of increasing political tensions and criticized Cawthorn for suggesting supporters threaten House members to overturn the 2020 election results. Edwards contrasted his legislative experience to Cawthorn’s, highlighting in particular sponsorship of a bill that banned sanctuary cities in North Carolina and working on the state’s balanced budget.

Trump endorsed Cawthorn for re-election on March 31, 2021. Following Cawthorn’s claims in late March 2022 that lawmakers in Washington use cocaine and hold orgies, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) endorsed Edwards. Tillis said Cawthorn “has fallen well short of the most basic standards Western North Carolina expects from their representatives.” Cawthorn, who said his claims were exaggerated, also drew criticism from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) for the remarks.

Edwards is expected to win the Nov. 8 general election. At the time of the primary election, three independent race forecasters rated the general election either Safe Republican or Solid Republican. At the time of the primary, the 11th Congressional District contained all or parts of 15 counties in western North Carolina, including the city of Asheville.

Also running in the primary were Matthew Burril, Rod Honeycutt, Wendy Nevarez, Bruce O’Connell, Kristie Sluder, and Michele Woodhouse.